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Land Use, Housing & Zoning


WHEREAS, On January 19, 2021, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed an amendment to the New York State Multiple Dwelling Law with the stated purpose of “authorizing flexibility in zoning to address high commercial vacancy rates and underutilized hotel properties located within specified areas in New York City, particularly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic;” and


WHEREAS, If enacted, the proposal would allow Class B and C office buildings located between 14th Street and 60th Street, and between Park Avenue and 9th Avenue built prior to 1977, as well as hotels located between Chambers Street and 110 Street, with less than 150 rooms, to be converted to residential use; and


WHEREAS, The proposal would take effect immediately upon enactment and would expire according to its terms on December 31, 2026; and


WHEREAS, To be eligible, a property as converted would need to meet one of the following conditions:


  1. be part of a state affordable housing plan or agreement with the State Department of Home and Community Renewal “(DHCR”) to provide a minimum of twenty percent (20%) of such housing units created as affordable housing, or


  1. is to be operated as a supportive housing facility that is under a contract with any state or city agency to provide housing and supportive services for any population, or


  1. will instead provide an amount necessary to support the creation or preservation of affordable housing or prevent homelessness as determined by the commissioner of the DHCR; and


WHEREAS, The proposal expressly overrides “any state law ... local zoning law, ordinance, resolution, or regulation” that would have the effect of limiting the conversions allowed by the proposed amendment, including but not limited to the NYC Zoning Resolution, the Energy Code and the NYC Building Code; and


WHEREAS, Instead of going through a properlegislative process, this sweeping legislation was included in the FY 2022 New York State Executive Budget, without input from the communities it would affect or the state and local legislators whose laws it would override; and


WHEREAS, The Memorandum of Support for the legislation, states as follows:


“New York State has an urgent and significant interest in addressing the high commercial vacancy rates and underutilized hotel properties, all of which contribute to the lack of affordable housing that currently exists in certain locations in the State, particularly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic;” and


WHEREAS, While the State does have an “urgent and significant interest in addressing the high commercial vacancy rates and underutilized hotel properties,” we find it contradictory that the Governor proposes this legislation to purportedly address high commercial vacancy rates while simultaneously promoting the creation of thousands of commercial units pursuant to Penn Station and other development plans; and


WHEREAS, According to the Census Bureau, market rate residential vacancy rate is staggeringly high in our district, with 20.6% residential vacancy rate in Midtown, increasing to 34.1% vacancy rate in core midtown from 42nd to 59th Street and 40.6% for the two census tracks that border Central Park; and


WHEREAS, The requirement “c” of the conditions would enable conversion of numerous properties, most of them located in CB5, while not giving those communities the benefit of much-needed affordable and supportive housing because of the “loophole” allowing developers to a building’s full conversion in one location and a contribution to a fund managed by the State to spend anywhere and anyhow the DHCR chooses; and


WHEREAS, While neighborhoods in Community Board Five may benefit from a use change allowing residential conversions, such changes must be done in a thoughtful and comprehensive way, following the SEQRA and CEQR technical manuals, with full evaluation of environmental impacts, with community input and guidance from local stakeholders and legislators, and with proper mitigations, such as the creation of school seats, open space, hospital beds and other services a new residential population would require; and


WHEREAS, Zoning is the responsibility and prerogative of local municipalities, and changes like this need to go through proper local legislative process, including ULURP, to ensure that they are done thoughtfully, equitably, transparently, and with consideration of all environmental impacts; and


WHEREAS, While we agree that addressing high commercial vacancy rates, underutilized hotel properties, as well as addressing the lack of affordable and supportive housing are essential priorities, we are deeply concerned that this bill will not address its stated goals, may exacerbate an already high market-rate residential vacancy rate and does not require desperately needed affordable housing in our district; therefore be it


RESOLVED, That Community Board Five opposes the Article 7 proposed PART L: “REPURPOSING UNDERUTILIZED COMMERCIAL SPACE FOR HOUSING”; and be it further


RESOLVED, That Community Board Five urges our State and City legislators to oppose the proposed bill and for Governor Cuomo to withdraw this bill from the State budget.


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